Backing and Docking

The unit begins with a brief online lesson to familiarize you with the procedures for backing maneuvers and to explain the precautions required for backing safely. The rest of the unit covers higher level backing theory.

What You Will Learn:

Backing Principles and Rules

Four Basic Backing Maneuvers

Lesson 01: Principles of Backing Tractor-Trailers

This unit will introduce driver-trainees to the Combination Vehicle Driver Training Curriculum and the components of a combination vehicle.

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Principles of Backing Tractor-Trailers

There are two important terms you need to know while backing which relate to your steering activity with the tractor. They are "jacking" and "chasing."

Jacking (i.e., jackknifing)

Jacking is employed to change the direction that the trailer wheels are following; that is, you make the trailer jack to the right or to the left depending upon the path you want the trailer to take. The trailer will "jack" in the direction that you turn the steering wheel. If you want the trailer to jack to the right, then turn the wheel to the right.

Chasing (i.e., following the trailer)

Once the tractor has "jacked" the trailer into the path (direction) desired, you then must chase the trailer through its path for as long as you desire the trailer to follow that path. You do that the same way you kept the trailer in a straight path in "Unit 1.4, Basic Control". If the trailer begins to drift off of the curved path, you turn the wheel away from the drift. For example, if the trailer drifts to the left, you turn the wheel to the right. Jacking and chasing are two terms you will be hearing over and over again from your instructor while he or she is teaching you the principles of backing. When the instructor says, "O.K., now give it some jack," he or she is telling you to change the direction of the trailer's path. You do this with the tractor its true, but you are actually steering the trailer. This is why the rear tractor axle is referred to as the "steering" axle when you're in reverse. When the instructor says, "O.K., now chase it," he or she is telling you that you have now "steered" the trailer into the desired path. Then you must "chase" the trailer along that path. Failure to do so immediately will result in the trailer continuing to jack past the intended path. If you fail to chase it, eventually your rig will end in a full jackknife with the trailer against the side of the cab.


All jacking and chasing is a matter of when (timing) and how much steering input). If you jack too soon or too late the trailer doesn't steer into the path you want it too. Similarly, if you're too late or too soon in chasing, the trailer will not continue along the desired path. How much--Too much or too little a turn on the steering wheel will start the trailer in the wrong direction. Steering too much or too little, chasing the trailer will cause it to go off course.

Lesson 02: Straight Line Backing

Every backing maneuver starts and finishes with a straight line.

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Backing the Tractor-Trailer in Straight Line Checklist

1. Put vehicle in position by moving forward until tractor-trailer is aligned and front wheels are straight.

2. Put vehicle in reverse.

3. Constantly check behind when backing.

4. Steering

  • Keep vehicle on path.
  • Do not oversteer.
  • Correcting drifts.
  • Turn steering wheel in direction of drift as soon as it occurs.
  • Do not oversteer, only slight movement required if caught right away.
  • Little drifts need small correction, big drifts need big ones.
  • Use push-pull method of steering to keep trailer in line.
  • When trailer drifts, it gets bigger in mirror, push steering wheel towards that mirror to correct.
  • Immediately straighten steering wheel.
  • If late in catching larger image of trailer, push wheel more biggest error in push-pull.
  • Method--not returning wheel to straight position immediately.
  • 5.Pull up and start again if too far out of position.

    Download the Straight Line Backing Checklist

    Lesson 03: Parallel Park- Blind Side

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    This is a sample course from our training library. You're welcome to view the course for personal use. Drivers of member fleets will receive a certificate after completing the online course. Please sign into your account to take an assignment. A certificate will be delivered electronically to your driver qualification file.

    First Transit
    Shamrock Foods Driver

    Customer Comments

    Dennis Atencio - Director of Safety
    Apex Transportation

    Bob Bowman - Director, Safety & H.R.
    Alpine Lumber Company

    Tim Long - Director of Safety
    Epes Transport System

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